Automotive aftermarket parts
|Headquarters||Warminster Township, Pennsylvania, United States|
automobile transmission shifters |
Jaws of Life
Hurst was also an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) supplier for automakers and provided services or components for numerous muscle car models by American Motors (AMC), Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors. Their products were included as standard equipment in AMC's The Machine (also known as the Rebel Machine), AMC AMXs and Javelins, Pontiac GTOs and Oldsmobile 442s, Boss Mustang 302 and the Boss 429, as well as Dodge Chargers, Plymouth Barracudas, and Plymouth Superbirds, among others.
Specialty automobile models produced in cooperation with automakers that incorporated the Hurst logo or name, included:
- 1969 AMC SC/Rambler
- 1970 Chrysler Hurst 300
- 1971 Hurst Jeepster
- 1972 Hurst Oldsmobile Pace Car (Unique, manufactured by Hurst for Indy Race Day, copied at Oldsmobile dealerships)
- several Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds models
Hurst Performance was also the inventor of the "Jaws of Life" — a hydraulic rescue tool. The company designed a complete Hurst Rescue System in the early 1970s, a specialty Emergency Medical Services (EMS) apparatus. Based on the AMC Gremlin, it served as a quicker and more compact emergency vehicle, compared to the traditional heavy rescue vehicles used at motorsport race tracks and as a companion vehicle to any highway emergency system.
Hurst Performance was originally named Hurst-Campbell. The company was established in 1958 as an auto repair shop when George Hurst was a young man. An older man named Lawrence Greenwald (who is credited, among other things, as one of the inventors of stretch nylon hosiery), took certain cars from his collection to Hurst's shop for repair. Greenwald saw promise in Hurst and decided to finance him in a venture to manufacture large aftermarket bumpers for VW buses, which were becoming increasingly popular.
When Volkswagen began manufacturing its own large bumpers for the buses, Hurst-Campbell branched out into the piston-driven gearshift business. They also manufactured, at various times, engine mounts, wheels, and shift knobs in addition to its line of gearshifts.
The company's research department developed and invented the Jaws of Life. The company gave away the patent for this device without compensation.
By the early 1960s, Hurst transmission shifters and other products had become legendary in auto racing, particularly in drag racing, and among custom car makers. Many automobile enthusiasts replaced flimsy factory shifters (and steering column shifters, as well) with Hurst floor shifters to obtain better control of gear selection, particularly for competitive driving. As automotive historian Mike Mueller noted, "If you didn't have a Hurst shifter in your supercar, you were a mild-mannered loser." General Motors' official policy up to that time had prohibited the use of the names of outside vendors on GM products. Pontiac Division manager Elliot "Pete" Estes convinced the corporation that having the Hurst name on its cars' shifters would be an effective sales tool. Various Pontiac models had already been equipped with Hurst shifters from the factory, but the Hurst name did not actually appear on Pontiac shifters until 1965. Hurst's shifters were so good that U.S. automakers were forced to offer Hurst branded gear sticks on their muscle car models, although at the time they preferred manufacturing their own parts rather than outsourcing.
In 1968, Greenwald and Hurst took the company public. The company was acquired in 1970 by Sunbeam Products, a manufacturer of small appliances. Hurst was promised an executive position and seat on the board of directors as part of the buyout, but Sunbeam did not follow through. (According to one variation of this account, Sunbeam specifically informed Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Hurst that they would no longer be affiliated with the company.) Greenwald fully retired at age 67.
George Hurst died in 1986. Lawrence Greenwald died of natural causes in 1986.
A subsidiary, established in 2008, called Hurst Performance Vehicles, is responsible for creating new renditions of Hurst vehicles that include the Hurst Challenger, Hurst Viper, and the Hurst Camaro.
Media related to Hurst Performance at Wikimedia Commons
- "Hurst/Gremlin Rescue System". Car and Driver. 18: 100. 1973.
- "The Little Car That Could". salguod.net. 12 February 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Wilson, Bob. "AMC Gremlin Stuff - page 2". arcticboy com. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Mueller, Mike (1997). Motor City Muscle: High-Powered History of the American Muscle Car. MBI Publishing. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-7603-0196-8. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Madigan, Tom; McClelland, Dave (2007). Fuel and Guts: The Birth of Top Fuel Drag Racing. MBI Publishing. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-7603-2697-8. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Newhardt, David (2008). American Muscle Supercars: Ultimate Street Performance from Shelby, Baldwin-Motion, Mr. Norm and Other Legendary Tuners. MBI Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-7603-3294-8. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- "George Hurst, 59, Inventor of the 'Jaws of Life,' Found Dead". Los Angeles Times. 19 May 1986. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
- Filipponio, Frank (25 January 2007). "B&M buys Hurst: Giant shifter conglomerate created". Autoblog. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- "Hurst Performance Vehicles (official web page)". Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Lichty, Robert C.; Boyce, Terry V. (1984). Hurst Heritage High Performance History. Dobbs Publishing Group. ISBN 0-941596-24-9.
- www.hurst-shifters.com — Official site